Selecting wines to accompany Christmas repasts can be extremely challenging. Inevitably, the cellarmaster must successfully cater to a diverse range of tastes, appreciation levels and budgets. No mean feat when providing for larger groups of family and friends.
The festivities dictate that the wines served shouldn’t be pontificated about and dwelt on for too long.
The best wines will be those that have sufficient “up front” appeal that everyone – including the novices – “get it”, whilst having sufficient class and style to appeal to the more discerning guest.
I’m confident that all the following are “user friendly” and will ensure that your celebrations are conducted in the appropriately high spirits.
With my best wishes for the festive season and for 2018.
Sparklings & starter whites
2016 Isola Augusta Prosecco Brut
Is prosecco a grape variety or a region? If the current legal imbroglio surrounding the use of the word “prosecco” is any indicator, the answer is it depends on which lawyer is arguing which case.
Meanwhile, this Italian sparkling wine from the Prosecco region is an absolute gem : great freshness, in no small part due to it having been shipped here in refrigerated containers, which is not common for a wine in this price bracket.
Lively, floral and green apple fruit aromas with a faint touch of honey in the background.
The flavours are vibrant, effervescent, and palate cleansing with their light white fruit and citrus notes. This is a wine that delivers lots of satisfaction with its straightforward approach to pleasure. Really fun way to start your Christmas day libations.
MV Laurent Perrier La Cuvée Champagne
Earlier this year, “LP” as its affectionately known, decided to up the ante with their MV (multi vintage ) blend. While their MV has set a cracking quality pace over the years, this wine takes things to another level.
A blend of over 100 “crus”, the cépage is 50-55% Chardonnay around 25% Pinot Noir and the balance pinot meunier. I often find many of the “grand marques” MV’s aggressive and unattractive.
None of that here, thank you.
There is a beautiful fineness to this Champagne with real charm and elegance — no doubt the high percentage, high quality chardonnay fruit drives that poise and balance.
Again, really good value, and load up should you be fortunate enough to see a keener price offered than the one quoted above.
2016 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling
Long time standard bearer for the Frankland region in Western Australia. It’s yet another outstanding release of this producers top riesling cuvee.
Vibrant lime and citrus zest flavours, with outstanding fruit intensity, there are real layers to this. Long and refreshing, with superb tension from the beautifully integrated acidity. Delicious texture and weight. Very good. Very moreish.
2016 Keller Riesling Von der Fels Riesling
Keller is the man when it comes to great German riesling: This is yet another stunner from the master. Very pale bright lemon appearance. Voluminous bouquet of wet stone, citrus, and river streams introduce the powerfully long, spine tingling flavours, which are pure, cold and zingy like fresh lime squeezed over shaved ice, all topped off with a little touch of pulpy texture. The sum of all this just makes me go, wow! This is stupidly cheap.
Fuller bodied white wines
2015 Domane Wachau Federspiel Riesling “Bruck”
From Austria’s premier viticultural region, the Wachau, this riesling is from the “Bruck” vineyard, a steep south facing site. A bouquet of stone fruit, ripe Bartlett pear, lychee and white flowers. The palate doesn’t disappoint with the really lively fruit flavours of apricot and quince arriving and departing with great zip and zing. Finishes long and refreshing. This has delightful mouthfeel and balance. Will work beautifully with cold meats and seafood. Again plenty of bang for the buck.
2016 Burton Mc Mahon George’s Vineyard Chardonnay
Mid-lemon colour with bright green meniscus highlights. The nose is full throttle with voluminous notes of white stone fruits, matchstick, and Granny Smith apple and oak.
The palate has real weight with its lemon curd characters, with plenty of dry extract intensity. Medium length which finishes with notes of oak and salinity.
Textbook new world/Australian chardonnay. Plenty of bang for your buck.
2015 Devils Lair Chardonnay
This is a classic example of Margaret River chardonnay and all its virtues. Beautiful mid-lemon appearance of medium depth. The nose displays lemon crème characters with a background of french oak. Medium to full bodied palate, pulpy texture and jammed packed with flavours of white pear and melon, driven by excellent acidity and framed with judicious oak. Quite sophisticated for the dollars. Will work beautifully with pretty much anything on the table (with the possible exception of oysters served natural).
2015 Coldstream Hills Réserve Chardonnay
This is wine is deluxe. Voluminous aromatics of glace pear notes bound with a corset of complex sulphides resulting in a super focused and complex bouquet. Similarly intense in the mouth with the attack on entry, setting things up beautifully for the layered fruit flavours of pear, nectarine and white peach. Powerful, complex, long and satisfying, this is more than capable of giving a heck of a lot of white burgs a run for their money at half the price. Love this; serve it with the roast pork and apple sauce, or any of the Christmas seafood and their appropriate condiment.
2016 Penna Lane Cabernet Sauvignon
My few loyal readers might well blink when they see my review of an Australian “Cab Sav”. With the notable exceptions of Margaret River and the Yarra Valley (cue outrage from the rest of Australia’s viticultural regions), there seems to be a directly inverse relationship between the price of Cabernet dominant wines and the pleasure they deliver. Often the styles are too try-hard and serious for fruit that was never of the right composition to be “serious”. All this means less bang/pleasure for your buck. Which is why I choose not to waste my time on them.
On the other hand, when given this Clare Valley Cabernet sample by the owner (my brother-in-law) he made no pretense as to its purpose: “rip (screw) the bloody top off and get into it!” Great advice as this drinks like a CabSav booj.
Enjoy the bright plush red fruit flavours which swing through the palate with weight and liveliness as they deliver youthful satisfaction and a fresh medium length finish. I’m told more humble Bordeaux reds (Supérieur, AOC etc) are going down this drink now and fast route. If so, I might have to start drinking Bordeaux again. Meanwhile, I’m satisfied drinking this with the roast turkey and the roast pork.
2016 Paringa Estate “Peninsula” Pinot Noir
If you want Pinot Noir with your Christmas lunch and don’t want to spend a lot of bucks on it, you would do well to have a look at this entry level wine from one of Mornington Peninsula’s best producers. Attractive gentle aromas comprising cool raspberry, strawberry and a hint of wild vegetation. This wine delivers pleasing medium weight red fruit flavours with some real tang and cut to them, all in spite of the challenges of the vintage.
A really decent drinking pinot at a quaffing price.
2013 Benevelli Frères Barolo Ravera di Monforte
From one of my favorite Piedmont producers whose Langhe Nebb features regularly on my dining table, this is the producers big boy Nebbiolo: Barolo Monforte.
Glorious bouquet of small red berry fruit, hints of anise, menthol, touch of new leather and with a positive warm soil background note. The palate is fine and slinky on entry with very bright flavors which flow seamlessly through the medium to dense palate and close with firm tannins and fragrant aromatic notes. The flavours really persist with the aftertaste lingering for a long long time. Delicious Barolo and a bargain at the price.
2015 Burn Cottage “Cottage Vineyard” Pinot Noir
I’m no apologist for wines that get up in your face. This Central Otago pinot straight out of the gate shows you what it brings, and it brings plenty. A bouquet of brooding dark plum characters with a funky, feral, sauvage complexity that reminds me of sex and/or warm ducks guts; hang on tight , there’s lots going on here! The palate is long, plush and seriously decadent in a manner which I have to say reminds me of the great wines of the Cote de Nuits. The complex dark fruit and savory animale flavours finish oh so long with an delicate full stop lick of oak. Incredibly good and worth every cent, drink this and you will think all your Christmas have come at once.
Frank Wilden is a retail food strategist and a “lapsed” restaurateur whose love of wine began nearly four decades ago.
Frank is writing this fortnightly wine column for Business Insider Australia. Get in touch with him via @thefrankreport on Twitter
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